I’m happy to admit when I get something wrong. I think people who write draft blogs should be prepared to do that. Not with every bad judgement, but certainly with some. Just to balance it out. There’s a lot of self-appreciation from people who pontificate on the draft but not enough humbling honesty sometimes.
I ignored Russell Wilson because of his height. That was a big mistake.
Regulars will know I didn’t give Wilson enough respect on this blog. Overall we looked at a great number of quarterbacks, including those expected to go in the later rounds. We spent a great deal of time looking at guys like Kirk Cousins and Chandler Harnish. We looked in detail at Robert Griffin III and Ryan Tannehill. We dissected two quarterbacks who didn’t even declare in Matt Barkley and Landry Jones.
But we didn’t spend enough time looking at Russell Wilson. Or at least I didn’t – Kip was right on the mark on this one. A lot of people claim – with hindsight – that they always liked a certain guy. Kip genuinely did feel that way and often spoke of not only his talent, but his fit in Seattle’s offense. I think I recall him saying he was virtually the ideal quarterback fit for the Seahawks. He looks pretty smart today.
In April he called the pick of Wilson in round three his favorite of any draft. “There was no pick I ever enjoyed hearing in the moment more than this one. I’ve followed the draft as a Seahawks fan for about 20 years, and this was only the second time that a pick made me leap off the couch and scream in celebration. The other time was in 2007 when Brandon Mebane somehow reached our third round pick and the Seahawks didn’t repeat their mistake of passing on him in the previous round.”
Prior to the draft he ranked Wilson as the #3 quarterback in the draft, behind only Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. “His line at Wisconsin was one of the tallest in the country and taller than many NFL lines, and yet he had almost zero height related problems because the scheme and his own talent allowed him to find throwing lanes to look through. I honestly worry more about Wilson’s stats being inflated by Wisconsin’s high completion rate offense more than I worry about his height. If Wilson goes to the right kind of offense, namely an offense just like Seattle’s, I believe that at a minimum he’ll be one of the league’s best backups, with a chance to be a good starter.”
Yet as good as Kip looks because of his sound judgement, I’m not afraid to admit I didn’t do a good enough job looking at Wilson. We published some tape, broke it down and I answered the occasional question, but he clearly warranted more than that. We’ve seen that in pre-season and in two weeks time he could be a starting NFL quarterback. It’s not so much missing on a player because you can’t expect to get them all right, but having dedicated so much time to the quarterback position in general… Wilson deserved more time.
A few people have accused me of being one-sided in favor of Wilson from day one. I’m happy to say I thought Wilson should start this year pretty much as soon as he was drafted. But that wasn’t based on some ridiculous crush based on college tape. I was pretty lukewarm on Wilson in college. My argument for him starting had nothing to do with preference to Wilson or Matt Flynn. On May 1st, shortly after Wilson was drafted, I wrote the following:
I think Russell Wilson has every chance to become the rookie starting quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks.
I see his (Flynn’s) signing as opportunistic on Seattle’s behalf, taking another chance on a guy who was available at the right price due to a weak market. But if one of the other quarterbacks performs better in camp, I have absolutely no doubt at all that Flynn will be the backup. Seattle has carried an expensive backup quarterback for the last two years. They’re prepared to go with the right man, not the man who cost the most money.
There’s been no reference to patience with Wilson, just a lot of talk about how he’s beaten the odds. I get the feeling they truly believe Russell Wilson could be the quarterback not just for the future, but maybe even for now. After all, hasn’t Carroll talked about young quarterbacks starting early in the modern NFL? Has he not discussed his willingness to play young players, even at the most important position? Has he not backed that up by thrusting rookies into starting roles with some impressive results?
It could be argued that Wilson even has a slight edge, given the investment of a valuable third round pick in his services. That to me is more of a commitment than the salaries due to both Tarvaris Jackson and Matt Flynn in 2012.
If the Seahawks are as excited about Wilson as they suggest, I think they might as well start the guy. Hey, they’ve talked the pick up to the extreme so let’s see what he has. Rookies start early in this league, and had the Seahawks drafted Wilson in round one a lot of people would expect him to be the quarterback in 2012. I get the impression that Schneider and Carroll see Wilson as a round one talent who fell due to height anyway.
But more than anything I just think the Seahawks need to know what they’ve got. Whether it’s Flynn, Wilson or Jackson starting next season, if the performance is still inadequate there’s going to be increasing pressure on the team to draft a quarterback in round one, even if it requires a Robert Griffin III style trade. If the Seahawks go 7-9 again next year with the quarterback again throwing more picks than touchdowns, it’ll be difficult to justify why the guy who couldn’t beat out the struggling 2012 starter is now the right man to lead the team. Fans and media will grow impatient as the next free agent or mid-round pick is trotted out as the starter.
And quite frankly it’s about time Seattle had some direction at the position beyond a year or two. If they need to go big for a Matt Barkley or Logan Thomas next year, then let’s find out if that’s the case.
The run game and defense will help Seattle win another 7-8 games. The difference between sticking in that range and progressing to 9-12 wins will be improved quarterback play. So let’s see if Wilson is up to the job. The Seahawks need some long term planning at the position. They can’t change the quarterback every year. First Hasselbeck, then Whitehurst, then Jackson. Will it be Flynn this year and if he fails, Wilson next year? Having a revolving door at quarterback will hold this team back. Eventually, they need to commit.
Next years class could have the answer. Barkley, Thomas, Wilson. It still stands to reason that eventually Seattle might have to go big on a quarterback. If Flynn produces a performance comparable to Jackson, and Wilson doesn’t start as a rookie, there’s going to be some pressure to be proactive again but this time in round one… to get a quarterback that can give this regime a chance to deliver a consistent playoff challenger. It’s another reason why Seattle has to be prepared next year. They need to know if the big move is necessary or if they’ve already found the answer. They’ll only find out that answer by starting Russell Wilson. So why not?
That was my argument for Wilson starting. I think there’s at least some logic involved there, rather than, “OMG Russell Wilson is a great quarterback and must start!!!”
Perhaps I would’ve been saying such a silly remark had I actually seen past the height and concentrated on the football? It still bugs me that I was so short sighted there. I actually thought Wilson would last deep into the draft – purely because teams would’ve graded him as another Seneca Wallace with maximum value as a solid backup. I got it wrong. It’s probably one of many reasons why I write a blog rather than work in Seattle’s front office. But the likelihood is my line of thinking was shared in many front offices around the NFL. And that’s to their detriment it seems.
I do have an excuse and so do they. It was due to the famous ‘conventional wisdom’ that we’ve heard so much about this off-season. I saw a 5-10 quarterback and didn’t expect he’d translate. And here he is, churning out the yards and scoring drives on a NFL roster.
I like to see each draft as an opportunity to learn. That doesn’t just mean the negatives, it’s the positives too. For every bad projection there’s usually a good one. Usually. Tim Ruskell was pretty easy to understand during his time as Seahawks GM and a lot of media pundits could read his mind relatively easily when it came to the draft. Pete Carroll and John Schneider are almost impossible to work out, but there are little trends emerging.
If I could go back now – and it’s always easy to say that – I’d highlight the fact that Wilson isn’t quite like any quarterback we’ve seen before. Carroll clearly likes that, but not in the way some have suggested (eg – simply being determined to be different). He’s short yet has very few passes tipped. Ryan Tannehill is 6-4 and had plenty of tipped passes at Texas A&M last year and the same is happening in pre-season with Miami. His throwing motion is slingy and at times costly. Wilson, despite being much shorter, has a technically sound over-the-top release that has allowed him to avoid similar problems. Getting out of the pocket helps, but when he did stay in there last season he still completed clean passes.
His production at NC State and Wisconsin was impressive, so was his ability to avoid turnovers. Carroll preaches winning the turnover battle almost as much as competition – and here was a QB who barely ever turned it over in college. He had character and purpose, a determination seemingly brought about by ambition, competitive spirit and family tragedy after his father sadly passed away. When he visited Jon Gruden for the quarterback camp series this year, Gruden commented, “if you give Russell Wilson a chance to win a job, he’ll win it.” How true that statement is right now.
There were enough positives out there for a guy like Carroll to see beyond the height thing. My mistake was in failing to notice that. And given how enamoured the front office appeared to be when they made that third round pick, really this is a lesson to be learned. I don’t think we’ll ever work Carroll the way people worked out Ruskell’s philosophy, but we can still be smarter.
Nothing is conventional about this team. We should remember that as we move forward and begin to analyse the 2013 draft class. Increasingly, it looks like we might be able to concentrate on positions other than quarterback. And what a refreshing change that would be.